When building a dog run, the best footing combines easy maintenance for you and relative comfort for your dog. You also want ground covering that is easily available and inexpensive. When considering options, take into account how much time your dogs will spend in the run.
While gravel is easy to install, it has drawbacks. It requires more maintenance, as dogs tend to dig holes in it. Your dog may also run back and forth a lot in the run, creating paths. You'll need to fill in those holes and rake the paths. Because droppings easily embed in gravel, you'll have to pick them up frequently to avoid creating a mess. Install gravel at a 2-inch depth. Gravel needs regular liming to control pests.
While easily obtainable and a cinch to put down, wood chips also have drawbacks. Pests such as fleas, ticks and other bugs and parasites live and breed in them. Dogs dig holes in the chips and also scatter them when running back and forth. Urine absorbs into the chips, causing odor and potential hygiene issues. On the plus side, they are easy to remove by raking them and bagging and easy to replace. Put down wood chips at a 2-inch depth. This material also requires regular lime applications.
Quality sand makes a good choice for dog run ground covering. It's easy on the dog's feet, and removing droppings is not hard for you. It's inexpensive and easy to install and remove. Digging is an issue. About 2 inches of sand should be sufficient.
Dirt or Grass
You can build a run and not put in any ground covering, leaving it as dirt or grass. While that is the cheapest of all options, unless you only have one dog who doesn't spend a lot of time in the run, it probably isn't a good idea. Unless the run is very large, the grass soon turns to dirt. It gets muddy from rain, with your dog becoming dirty. It's not the easiest surface for picking up droppings.
From a hygiene standpoint, consider concrete. Thorough cleaning can be accomplished with a hose. It requires little maintenance. Dogs can't dig in it or destroy it. It's not the greatest surface for a dog to lie on for long periods. If you're handy, you can install it yourself. Otherwise, you'll need to hire a professional to ensure it's done right.
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